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What is Critical Appraisal?

  • A balanced assessment
  • Assessment of both process and results
  • Considers quantitative and qualitative dimensions 
  • Undertaken by all health practitioners


What is NOT Critical appraisal

  • Dismissal of research
  • Narrow critique of results
  • Based solely on statistical analysis
  • Only for experts


Two skills central to the research process

  • Searching the literature
  • Critically appraising (or evaluating) the literature that exists


Two purposes for literature review

  • Discover what has already been done in your area of interest
    • Chronological representation of ideas
    • Shows which ideas have been abandoned due to lack of support
    • Shows which ideas have been confirmed as “truths”
    • Discover what needs to be done in your area of interest


Three types of sources for research

  1. General
  2. Secondary
  3. Primary


General Sources

  • Overview of topic
  • Provides leads to further information Examples: newspapers, periodicals and magazines, Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, New York Times Index


Secondary Sources

  • Sources “once removed” from original research

Examples: review papers, anthologies of readings, textbooks, encyclopaedias


Describe Journals

  • Collection of research articles published in a particular discipline 
  • Most important primary source of information about a topic Examples: Australian Journal of Psychology Applied Psychology


Process of review for Journals

  • Researcher submits article in format specified by journal
  • Editor distributes article to three reviewers ; peer review + blind review - FOUR possible recommendations
    • Accept outright
    • Accept with revisions
    • Reject with suggestions for revision
    • Reject outright
  • Editor conveys decision to author
  • Average rejection rate for top journals > 80%
  •  Beware publication bias (significant results 3x more likely to be published compared to null results).


What is APA manuscript?

The APA was “developed to assist reading comprehension in the social and behavioural sciences, for clarity of communication, and to move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision”


Why have Scientific Laboratory Reporting Standards?

  • Consistent standards aid in the comprehension and generalisation of study outcomes
  • Helps to understand how research was conducted
  • Based on research design not topic


What does a manuscript look like? (10+2)

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Method
    • Participants
    • Materials and Procedure
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Author Notes
  • Footnotes


The Title (10)

  • Approx. limit 12 words
  • Summarises the main idea of the manuscript
  • First impression!
  • Concise statement; identify variables/theoretical issues explored
  • Stand alone (fully explanatory) and suggest importance of idea
  • Statement of content for abstracting/search
  • Avoid irrelevant wording (e.g., “A study of…”)
  • Avoid abbreviations
  • Upper and lowercase
  • Centred between margins, upper half of page
  • Style – “Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The Answer Is Blowing In the Wind.


The Abstract (8)

  • Brief, but comprehensive, summary of the report; perhaps the most vital paragraph! Often written last
  • Dense with information (150-250 words*); keywords
  • Reader should understand purpose of paper, research approach, design, findings, and implications
  • Used for searching and catalogue (e.g., EndNote)
  • Most journals require an abstract
  • Should be accurate, non-evaluative, concise
  • Use past tense for describing manipulations, outcomes, etc.
  • Use present tense when describing conclusions drawn


Abstract should contain (8+NB)

  • Start abstract on a new page, identified with running head
  • The problem (one sentence) and/or purpose
  • Description of participants (including notable characteristics)
  • Features of method
  • Basic findings (often including effect sizes and p values)
  • Conclusions
  • Implications/applications

N.B The above applies to an experimental report. However, the abstract may take different form based on different methods (e.g., meta-analysis, theory-based paper, case study, etc.)



  • No ‘Introduction heading’, but repeats title from title page (first letter of each word capitalised)
  • Introduce ‘The Problem’ Why is this important? How does this study relate to prior work in the field? What does it add? (e.g., previous inconsistencies, replication, extension, etc.)
  • Explore and detail previous research/evidence Go beyond citing authors as support – detail their work
  • Summarise relevant arguments (should not be a historical account)
  • If reporting controversies, avoid logical fallacies (e.g., ad hominem) Theoretical and practical implications (sell it to the reader!)
  • Aim and Hypothesis/es Test of a good introduction?


The Introduction funnel

  • General
  • The Problem - Whats been done
  • The evidence found
  • Your approach
  • Fill in the gap in research


What is Not Critical Appraisal?

  • Dismissal of research
  • Narrow critique of results
  • Based solely on statistical analysis
  • Only for experts


Name two skills central to the research process

  1. Searching the literature
  2. Critical appraisal of existing literture


Name two purposes for literature review

  • Discover what has already been done in your area of interest